Students sue colleges in admissions bribery scandal

Legal experts say the students could have difficulty holding the colleges responsible

In the first lawsuit to come out of the college bribery scandal, several students are suing Yale, Georgetown, Stanford and other schools involved in the case, saying they and others were denied a fair shot at admission.

The plaintiffs brought the class-action complaint Wednesday in federal court in San Francisco on behalf of themselves and other applicants and asked for unspecified damages.

They argued that applicants who played by the rules were victimized when rich and famous parents paid bribes that enabled unqualified students to get into highly selective universities.

“Each of the universities took the students’ admission application fees while failing to take adequate steps to ensure that their admissions process was fair and free of fraud, bribery, cheating and dishonesty,” the lawsuit said.

Legal experts, though, said the students could have difficulty holding the colleges responsible.

The scandal erupted on Tuesday when federal prosecutors announced charges against 50 people, including coaches and dozens of parents, among them TV actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin. Prosecutors said parents paid to rig standardized exams and bribed coaches to get their children designated as recruited athletes in sports they didn’t even play, thereby boosting their chances of getting in.

READ MORE: Vancouver businessman among those charged in U.S. college exam scandal

READ MORE: Parents charged in admissions scheme roll through US courts

The colleges have cast themselves as victims and have moved to distance themselves from the coaches, firing or suspending them.

The investigation began with a tip from an executive under suspicion in a securities fraud probe, according to a law enforcement official who was not authorized to discuss the case and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The executive told Boston authorities that the women’s soccer coach at Yale offered to label the executive’s daughter a recruited athlete in exchange for cash, the official said.

Among other developments Thursday:

— The Hallmark Channel cut ties with Loughlin, a longtime star of its feel-good movies.

— Cosmetics company Sephora dropped Loughlin’s daughter Olivia Jade Giannulli, a 19-year-old social media star who frequently pushes products online.

— Golfer Phil Mickelson said he used the college consulting company accused of orchestrating the scheme, but emphasized his family was not involved in any fraud. One of his daughters is a sophomore at Brown University. Brown said it has found no evidence of fraud among its athletes.

The class-action complaint was brought initially by Erica Olsen and Kalea Woods, now students at Stanford. It was revised Thursday to remove Olsen and add three new plaintiffs, students at Tulane, Rutgers and an unnamed community college.

One of the institutions being sued, the University of Texas at Austin, issued a statement saying that it is “outraged” over the bribery scheme and that any wrongdoing at the school does not reflect its admissions practices and was carried out by “one UT employee.”

Other schools named in the lawsuit were the University of Southern California, the University of California at Los Angeles, Wake Forest University and the University of San Diego.

The students in the lawsuit could have a difficult time tying the schools to the fraud in the absence of further evidence, said Joy Blanchard, a professor at Louisiana State University who focuses on higher education law.

“They won’t be able to prove that the universities were behind some grand scheme,” she said.

Kyle McEntee, an attorney who has pushed for reforms in law school education, said the lawsuit “reeks of opportunism.”

“It’s tough to see these succeeding,” he said.

Legal experts said the plaintiffs at highly selective Stanford would have had an especially hard time showing they suffered any harm, since they still got into an elite institution. Messages seeking comment from Olsen and Woods were not immediately returned.

Among other claims, the lawsuit said that the universities should have discovered the bribes and that their failure to do so through audits or other practices reflects “an unfair business practice.”

USC officials said earlier this week that prosecutors believe that the perpetrators “went to great lengths to conceal their actions from the university.” Yale, likewise, said it was “the victim of a crime.”

Sudhin Thanawala And Michael Melia, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

 

Just Posted

Harrison Festival fundraiser dance to have ’70s theme and features Chilliwack band

Chilliwack band The Vacationers to perform at May 31 Harrison Festival Society’s fundraising concert

Seven Days in Chilliwack

A list of community events happening in Chilliwack from May 26 to June 2

Seabird Island opens 50th annual festival

The weekend festival will see First Nations teams compete in soccer, three-pitch and canoe races

Chilliwack school district estimates costs of tampons, pads at $22,500 annually

Free menstrual products to be provided in washrooms and medical rooms by end of 2019

Police find loaded rifle in car of ‘prolific offender’ prohibited from driving

Tyler Houle of Abbotsford arrested Wednesday in Chilliwack

REPLAY: The best videos from across B.C. this week

In case you missed it, here’s a look at the replay-worth highlights from this week in the province

Wildfire crews watching for dangerous wind shift in High Level, Alta.

The Chuckegg Creek fire is raging out of control about three kilometres southwest of the town

UN urges Canada to take more vulnerable Mexican migrants from Central America

The request comes as the United States takes a harder line on its Mexican border

Mistrial declared in Jamie Bacon murder plot trial

Bacon was on trial for counselling to commit the murder of Person X

B.C. VIEWS: Money-laundering melodrama made for TV

Public inquiry staged to point fingers before 2021 election

Canadian homebuyers escaping high housing costs by moving to secondary cities

In British Columbia, exurbs have grown in the Hope Valley and Kamloops

Feds lay out proposed new rules for voice, video recorders in locomotives

Transport Canada wants to limit use of recorders to if a crew’s actions led to a crash

Raptors beat Bucks 100-94 to advance to franchise’s first-ever NBA Finals

Leonard has 27 points, 17 boards to lead Toronto past Milwaukee

Most Read